27 April 2017


Victorinox Paring Knife with Serrated Edge

Multipurpose serrated paring knife with thin sharp blade

There have been lots of reviews of knives here and elsewhere. This is one of my favorites: the Victorinox serrated paring knife! These are used by commercial fishermen as deck knives. They are affordable enough that we buy them by the box. Sheaths made of popped bouy material are taped at strategic locations around the boat so there is always a knife at hand. It is also common for sheathes be attached to rain gear bib straps or belts. The blade is thin and incredibly sharp. It will cut a 3/4″ hard laid poly line under tension in one pass. They are also great paring and steak knives, incidentally.

04/27/17 -- Bert Stammerjohan

26 April 2017


Olight i3E flashlight

Best AAA keychain light

The Olight i3E is a tiny flashlight, meant for a keychain. It is similar to the Streamlight Nano (which I have also owned), so I will compare it to that.


– It takes a single AAA battery, which you are likely to have in your closet already. It can also take AAA size rechargeable NiMH batteries, like the storied Panasonic Eneloops. (It will not take lithium batteries.) The Nano takes weird LR-41 button batteries, which you likely have to order.

– Nonetheless, it is tiny, at about 2.3 inches long. (The Nano is about 1.5 inches long. – It produces far more light than the Nano. The regular versions produce 90 lumens, and the Silver and Copper versions produce 120 lumens. The Streamlight Nano produces 10 lumens.

– (Like the Nano,) it has only two settings: On and Off.

– (Like the Nano,) the switch is just a head that you rotate. But unlike the Nano, the i3E shows no tendency to unscrew itself and thereby disassemble itself in your pocket. The Nano is notorious for dropping the head and batteries somewhere without your noticing, leaving only the rear case attached to your keychain. The usual remedy was a few turns of Teflon plumber’s tape.

– It has an actual TIR (Total Internal Reflection) lens, a combination reflector and lens which together provides a nice, narrow beam pattern, with a very bright hot spot and usable light in a cone around it. The lens also protects the LED from dust and wear. The Nano looks like it could have a reflector, but it really has a bare LED with its molded on lens. Accordingly, its throw pattern is less focused, and can throw glare in your eyes.

– It is relatively cheap, at only $13 or so, although the Nano is about $9.

Disadvantages: – It only has one setting, on or off. It doesn’t have a low or high setting. Olight has similar lights with hi/lo/medium settings, but they are bigger and more expensive.

– The twist switch (as such) is a little awkward for signaling SOS or other Morse code messages.

– It is more expensive than the Nano, though it is cheaper than most other LED flashlights.

Purchasing notes: I got the silver version for the slight bump in output (from 90 to 120 lumens.) The finish is silvery PVD, and after a few weeks, it has some scratches, but otherwise seems to be holding up. I expect the functional parts of it, like the LED, the case, etc. to last forever.

So. Not the absolute smallest or cheapest, but surprisingly bright, relatively cheap, with well-designed optics (and it actually has optics.)

04/26/17 -- Karl Chwe

26 April 2017


Maker Update #31

The best maker projects of the week

This week on Maker Update: an autonomous beach-roving art bot, Kickstarter wants your ideas, a project that makes kits for other projects, GUIs for Raspberry Pi, stipple ceramics, and I’ll show you why digital calipers are cool. Show notes here.


04/26/17 -- Donald Bell

25 April 2017


Superglue for cracked skin

Helps cracked skin heal quickly

Everyone knows about super glue and has probably used it to glue things together. Here’s another use that is less well known, but very popular among makers and anyone who works with their hands. Our winters out here (Kansas) are cold and somewhat unforgiving and often result in tiny and painful cracked ends of finger and heels. Super glue is terrific when applied. It dries very fast, creates a shield that helps prevent pain, protects, and best of all, allows time to heal because it is protected. Just a bit on the cracked finger or heel provides a good deal of pain relief. Almost any type of super glue will work just fine. Just remember that a very small amount is needed and that amount needs to be targeted right in the cracked finger tip or heel.

04/25/17 -- Neil J. Salkind

(According to this video, super glue works best when skin cracking is in the very early stages. After that use ointment and bandaids. — editors)

24 April 2017


Rothco Undercover Travel Vest

Includes a a tablet sized pocket and a hidden passport pocket

I bought this Rothco Undercover Travel Vest several months ago, after becoming dissatisfied with the photographer-style vests. They tend to look sloppy, with baggy pockets hanging off all over them. I found most of those pockets were too small to accommodate my stuff in the places I wanted it.

The Rothco vest presents a smooth surface, but has a lot of pockets, all closed by zippers. One breast pocket and two hand pockets are unobtrusive. The rest of the pockets are inside. The vest is very well made, and sized honestly.

I carry my phone, a pen, penlight, comb, small notebook, keys, a Leatherman, and various other small items. I recommend getting the khaki color, because the material is kind of a lint magnet, and the black vest needs frequent brushing if you don’t want to look dusty.

Only the outside zippers have pull extensions, I suppose to avoid lumpiness, but unless all the stuff you carry is flat, it may cause bigger lumps anyway. The lack of extensions makes it a little fiddly to unzip the inner pockets, so I made some string loops and put them on those zippers.

04/24/17 -- Dan Hoyt

23 April 2017


Camelcamelcamel/Travel tip/Gratefulness

Recomendo: issue no. 39

Cultural norms:
In most parts of the world business cards are still a cultural norm. I designed my business card in Photoshop, and every few years I update the info and send the file to PS Print online and they mail back a small box of 250 for $18. Easy, quick, cheap. — KK

Better phone calls:
Our house phone sounds awful and we get poor cell phone connectivity at home. But we have wi-fi and I’ve started using FaceTime Audio as much as possible to make phone calls. It works on any Apple hardware and the sound quality is crystal clear, even when using cellular data. — MF

This eBags toiletry bag is the perfect size to fit all essential travel toiletries plus a lot of my makeup. It has four compartments and stays pretty flat, so I can slip it into my large tote if I need to. My favorite feature is the hook for hanging which is great for hotels with little counter space. — CD

Lowest prices:
Prices on Amazon oscillate week to week far more than you might think. Paste an Amazon url into Camelcamelcamel.com to see the chart of an item’s price history. If you are not in a hurry, you can use the chart to set a plausible low target price and Camel will send you an alert and buy button when (if) it reaches that price. — KK

Travel tip:
On a recent trip to Tokyo, I brought along the Sea to Summit TravellingLight Day Pack ($33). It weighs 2.4 oz (my iPhone 6 Plus weighs 6.2 ounces) and zips up into a bundle smaller than my fist. But it holds 20 liters of stuff, and I used it every day to carry water, snacks, sweaters, an iPhone charger, a portable wi-fi, groceries, and things my wife and I bought while walking around. The material feels indestructible. — MF

Easy gratitude:
Gratefulness is the easiest way to practice gratitude. You don’t have to download an app or set a reminder to write in a diary. Just pick a time of day and you’ll get a text asking you what you are grateful for that day. At the end of the week, you’ll get an email of everything you text back. Reading the Public Gratitude Wall is a quick way to smile. — CD

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04/23/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson


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What's in My Bag? 23 February 2017

Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

About Cool Tools

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.